So you have finally got the job of your dreams – an entry level position in a communications agency. After the first couple of paychecks, the next question will be how do I get ahead?

You might be a writer, art director, digital artist, client servicing executive, media planner or whatever. The first step is to carry out your duties at your level well. The thing is, how to do that.

Let’s assume that as a writer, you can spell and turn your hand to craft a deft phrase or two. Or that as an art person, you can make your designing software talk. Or get your calculations right in servicing and media. That is the basic expectation. Performance skills aside, what will mark you as a professional suited for promotion?

The first thing is to be well-informed. Not just about your job nitty-gritties, but about things in general. Read the newspaper, a couple of decent magazines, and maybe even a book or two, best sellers included. Watch some television, catch some radio and surf the net. Catch a few movies, and not only the Bollywood bombs. So much for current stuff. 

Then comes the historical stuff. This doesn’t have to be all that dry and dusty, contrary to popular belief. With the net, today’s generation has the world on the desktop. Read, watch listen, research. What you gain is a perspective on how culture and communication evolved.

Let’s look at an example for art people. Today’s art graduates have never seen chemistry at work in photography. No emulsion, no processing, no printing, no pushing film speed in the camera and in the darkroom. A bit of reading on still photography history, and suddenly the photo manipulation software morphs into a digital darkroom! Hint: the tool icons in the software are symbolic of the actual tools once used in the photo studio darkroom!

There are several other things that you can do to throw more light on people sorting. 

Reading the religious texts – the Bible, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Quran and the others – brings alive a world of value systems that people believe in. And some people abuse. The scriptures also show you exceedingly fine examples of persuasive writing. The classics, in any language, provide a sense of culture and belonging. Even the popular comics, (again in any language) teach popular culture. 

Once you’ve armed yourself with more than the current gossip, you will show the maturity needed to handle a variety of clients. And once you get more work, the next bit is to handle it.

Manage your time well. Work on increasing your speed. Then you can fit in more work, happily, in less time. This is important because there are other demands on your time. 

The unsuspected key to professional growth is broadening the personal psyche with life experiences. 

Work on widening your network.  This means going out to new places, and meeting new people. You can also do this during your daily routine. Talk to people – auto drivers, taxi drivers, fellow commuters. They all have perspectives on life which are different from yours. They also have perspectives on spending money, which you need to understand as a salesperson. Which is what you really are.

Spend some time with friends and significant others. This will prevent burnout.

Spend some time with children. They have surprising views on life and technology.

Spend some time with older people. They have even more surprising views on modern times.

Spend some time with people who don’t have anybody. They have startling views on life and its realities. They will keep you grounded.

Meeting these different categories of people will help you handle different categories of clients.  From the aging patriarch who founded the family empire, to the grandson slotted to become the next satrap, to the newly inducted MBA with an accent thrown in, to the small town Indian who asks for his Bloody Mary glass to be washed clean of the salt. This will obviously help you communicate with various customers for various products, ranging from adult diapers for diabetic incontinency to mouth fresheners for canteen singers. 

When you do all this, the learnings will make you a much better communications professional. And maybe more importantly, you will be a much better person.

After all this hard work, here’s the ground reality. Using these skills, and some good old fashioned elbow grease, if you demonstrate that you can handle work at the next higher level, then you win a promotion. 

And the cycle starts again.

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